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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

The Drums & Frankie & The Heartstrings live

I'd taken an early punt on tickets to see The Drums at Camden Barfly and since buying them got more and more into the band, so by the time of the gig last night was very excited. Doubly so after finding out that Frankie & The Heartstrings were supporting, a band from Sunderland that featured Pete Gofton, once of Kenickie but more recently The Week That Was, a band that came out of the Field Music world and one of my favourites of last year. I know people who know Pete so had heard a lot of good things about the new band, and they absolutely didn't disappoint.

The whole gig was slightly marred by having the distinct whiff of being full of industry people, but the Heartstrings were led by singer Frankie who spent half the gig off the stage, in that early-Ian Brown way of challenging the audience to offer some sort of acknowledgement of the performance. They used some spiky stage banter and (more importantly) a really strong, punchy set, to make the point that they were going to do their thing anyway. I can't see how they could have failed to impress people whether anyone in the room wanted to look impressed or not. That's industry wankers for you though. Great songs, and memorable enough even on one live listen. The music's on Myspace here and although the band have a distinct 50's hint to their styling (think Gaslight Anthem with less tattoos and leather), the music's bang up to date. I'd love to get hold of something to listen to properly, so that's my next mission...

Incidentally, Jarvis Cocker was there to see the Heartstrings, and left after they'd played, but not before I'd found myself next to him at the bar and complimented him on his performance in The Fantastic Mr Fox, which he seemed to appreciate. Also saw Steve Lamacq there too, and a load of music writers*.

Then there was the Drums, the latest New York hipster band, hyped to the hilt. (There was another band in between but I didn't catch them). Despite being a duo, The Drums had six people onstage with them and like the Heartstrings, they put their backs into it, but unlike the support band, there was something distinctly affected about their performance. A bit drama school. They had some backing tracks playing, which I don't consider the crime against music that some people do, but again it gave the show a bit of a clinical facade that I'd rather wasn't there. So that was a little bit of a shame (not helped by the singer looking like a cross between H from Steps and Kevin the page boy from 30 Rock), though to be fair none of it detracted from the brilliance of their songs, which ultimately is what will keep me as a fan. I'm predicting a solid top 10 finish for their Let's Go Surfing in my Best Of 2009 list, and that track was on the most recent The Monthly. If you haven't heard them yet, you can get their Summertime EP on iTunes here.

So it was by no means the worst gig of the year, but nor was it quite as great as I'd hoped for. But then as much as The Drums didn't blow me away, Frankie & The Heartstrings more than compensated.

*One of said music writers was Ian Watson, who used to write for Melody Maker (remember that?) and was the journalist I took away with me on one of my very first PR trips abroad. Melody Maker were due to do a cover on band-du-jour Papa Roach (who I did UK press for at the time), when they were riding high on their big single Last Resort. So we went to San Francisco in what should have been a fairly simple assignment but which I remember being an absolute fricking stress-fest. This was in 2000 or thereabouts and would you believe I didn't even have a mobile that worked in the US, so co-ordinating any meeting up with the band was a particular cause of trouble.

Details are sketchy but here's what I do remember.
- I played pool with Badly Drawn Boy before we watched him play a gig on our first night in SF.
- I fell in love with San Francisco - it's still my favourite US city.
- Our hotel was way out of town by the airport (another logistical arse ache that I was too green to see coming).
- For reasons that escape me we had to extend the trip to get what we needed for the cover.
- I still have a polaroid of me (taken by the photographer to test the set up before the band arrived, so as to maximise the use of their time) holding a fake stick of dynamite, which was to be the cover shot.
- We ended going a long way north of San Francisco to the band's home town in northern California to get extra time with them.
- There was something going on with Limp Bizkit too - I think Melody Maker were trying to bag a cover with them too, and one of the things we trailed Papa Roach to was a gig at San Francisco's Cow Palace, part of the Anger Management tour that included Xzibit, Limp Bizkit (who were massive at the time), Eminem and Papa Roach - one of the best shows I've ever seen, for spectacle value. They shot Fred Durst in Christmas costume for their Xmas cover, with the P Roach cover being the next cover they'd run, around new year. Getting the Durst shoot together was an absolute clusterfuck of arseholes and idiots, all making themselves as important as possible around this man with an already enormous ego, so that was an added ball ache I could have done without (I didn't actually represent Limp Bizkit but they were on our label so I covered it while I was there).
- And the final thing I remember of note is the real kicker. The fucking Papa Roach cover never fucking ran. Melody Maker folded, kaput. The last one they ever ran was Fred Durst dressed up as fucking Santa. Arseholes, the lot of them.

Still, great memories.

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